Whorlton Hall Prosecution – Darren Lawton – Closing speech

The first closing speech heard today, Tuesday 25 April, was from Ms Rebecca Brown for Darren Lawton. She checked that everyone could hear and started by saying that she really liked her job.

I really like my job and I know that that makes me very lucky. One of the things I like most about my job is it’s about people, for the brief time I’m doing a case I get to learn about other people’s lives, other people’s worlds, get to walk in their shoes, learn about their circumstances.

Ms Brown told the jury that in this case we’d learnt about a lot of different people, the patients at Whorlton Hall, the staff at Whorlton Hall, she told them we’ve learnt about working in care, even about making a documentary for the BBC.

As interesting as all of that is, it has to be done with a level of detachment, in a non-emotional way.

I’m not asking you to like Darren Lawton, although you might.

I’m not asking you to find what he did, or said, was good practice.

On his behalf, I am asking you to find that you can’t be sure that what we have seen on the footage is a criminal offence.

In returning a not guilty verdict that is what you are saying ladies and gentlemen. You’re saying we can’t be sure the criminal offence is made out, it doesn’t mean any more or any less than that.

Ms Brown told the jury that Darren Lawton is charged on Counts 23 and 26, which she said she tends to remember as 1-2-3-MAYBO and the Garden Room and Garden. She said she would start with Count 23.

I ask you to find this cannot be properly described as ill-treatment.

The prosecution have scrambled … to try and make this ill-treatment by putting their spin on the footage we’ve seen, I make no criticism of them for doing that, that is their job.

Ms Brown told the jury that they’ll remember the footage, Ryan Fuller says 1-2-3-MAYBO and someone shouts “come on”, the prosecution say that is Patient 5 saying that. Ms Brown told the jury that is based on very little and asked how the prosecution can say that when Patient 5 is shouting come on and then whispering fuck “when we see him moments later lying on the floor and not uttering a word”. Ms Brown asked the jury if Patient 5 was shouting about 1-2-3-MAYBO why he wasn’t showing more aggressive behaviour.

Ms Brown told the jury that Patient 5’s illnesses manifest in aggressive behaviour. She said she’d put it to Olivia Davies who’d confirmed earlier that day Patient 5 had tried to choke a member of staff.

The prosecution are trying to put a sinister spin on this footage, they’re saying he’s being asked to do something he doesn’t want to do.

Is Patient 5 the type of person who does something he doesn’t want to do?

Ms Brown asked the jury if a more innocent explanation might be that he shouts come on and whispers fuck because he’s following the football. Ms Brown tells the jury that Darren Lawton has no part in that, he is out the room and comes in a short time later. She tells them that Darren Lawton says to Patient 5 “we don’t do prone” and he has told the jury that he’s never seen this before.

In the police interview of Darren Lawton they made an inflammatory comment, saying Patient 5 was being treated as a performing monkey, there’s no evidence of this, no evidence had happened before.

Ms Brown tells the jury that Olivia Davies said she’d not seen this before, Darren Lawton says on the video footage that he’d never seen this before.

There is no evidence this is a party trick or rehearsed routine designed to humiliate Patient 5.

Is it Darren Lawton joining in with the ill-treatment of a patient, or joining in with a totally unremarkable bit of banter happening between Patient 5 and his carers?

Ms Brown told the jury that Mr Lawton had told them that he thought Ryan Fuller and Patient 5 were having a laugh.

Prosecution are saying it’s deliberately cruel. Where’s the evidence of this? They don’t call him names, don’t verbally insult him, don’t have nasty looks on their faces, don’t touch him at any point.

Rather Darren Lawton speaks to Patient 5 and tells him to get up, says are you going to stay there until the night staff come in?

Prosecution on the transcript say you will stay there till night staff come in, trying to put a sinister spin on it, when we listen we hear Mr Lawton saying are you?

Putting Patient 5 in charge of what’s happening, having a dialogue with him … towards the end he says ‘OK, get up now’.

If someone was being deliberately cruel, would they tell him a couple of times, come on, get up?

Ms Brown told the jury that they then had “the movement Darren Lawton made with his knee” and the booof noise he made. She told the jury that Darren Lawton had explained that movement as “completely unthinking, the sort of thing he’d do with his children”. Ms Brown described playing with children, pretending to do something you’d never do in real life, horseplay.

The other day, whilst in the duration of this case, I was somewhere else and saw two grown men, one walked past the other and as he did so he momentarily lunged towards the other, as though he was going to push him off his chair.

I know those two men, their characters and the intention behind it. Imagine if that was filmed and then shown to 12 strangers.

Ms Brown told the jury that what was completely innocent and intended one way could look the other. She told the jury that Ms Richardson would say the example is different because here we are looking at patient – carer relationships.

Just because that is the relationship, it can’t be said there can’t be that friendliness, banter.

Whorlton Hall was the patients home, so it is natural and desirable isn’t it that their carers won’t be robots, won’t be cold, will be down to earth, funny, familiar, engaged.

Ms Brown told the jury another example of the prosecution putting their own spin on the footage was in the opening speech, where Ms Richardson said the knee swipe movement by Mr Lawton caused Patient 5 to get up immediately. She told the jury that is not right and when they look at the footage they can he see he got up after Darren Lawton says again, get up, come on.

Again, the prosecution are trying to make this footage almost sinister.

Ms Brown told the jury that Patient 5’s behaviour afterwards, once he did get up, was that he hangs around for the conversation that happens afterwards.

I say he seems calm, looks engaged, no shouting, swearing or aggression. His behaviour supports this is silly banter.

Was it professional?

That’s an irrelevant question I say. It’s not a criminal offence to be unprofessional.

Can it be properly defined as ill-treatment, the defence say no.

Even if it can be found to be ill-treatment, I say the other elements have to prove can’t be proven.

Ms Brown told the jury that Darren Lawton has to have appreciated it was ill-treatment, or be reckless to it being ill-treatment. She tells the jury that he wasn’t concerned afterwards, didn’t think about it, didn’t report Ryan Fuller to anyone, and Ryan Fuller didn’t report Darren Lawton to anyone.

I say that’s because it’s a non-event.

Olivia Davies said she had no independent recollection of the event. I say if she’d been witness to two carers being deliberately cruel she’d remember it.

Ms Brown said she’s move onto Count 26. She thanked the jury for their patience when she played the entire 30 minutes of footage relating to this count.

Something I would like you to think about.

Can you point to, even now, where Darren Lawton is supposed to be mocking Patient 6.

That’s the wording of the charge, did ill-treat Patient 6 by mocking him and simulating masturbation actions toward him.

Defence say at no point does Darren Lawton do anything that could be termed mocking.

Ms Brown told the jury that the prosecution have tried to tie Darren Lawton into Ryan Fuller’s behaviour by putting them on a joint charge together. She warned the jury about finding they were acting together, telling them there is no evidence that Darren Lawton was encouraging or assisting Ryan Fuller.

Ms Brown told the jury that Ms Richardson had asked Darren Lawton in cross examination about the way Ryan Fuller was going on “something he agreed with”, and she told the jury that apart from the masturbation gestures Ms Richardson didn’t suggest anything he’d specifically done was mocking Patient 6.

Ms Brown told the jury there were three other staff members there who also did nothing about Ryan Fuller, but she told them they weren’t here in the dock.

I’m not going to mislead you members of the jury, there is something Darren Lawton did that those others did not, the masturbation gestures.

Is that mocking?

Ms Richardson for the prosecution says it is … mocking and making fun of him.

Ms Brown told the jury that Darren Lawton described to them how he was “simply saying what’s this and repeating the gesture”. She told them that we do hear Darren Lawton’s voice saying “what’s this” before he made the gesture, although it is not in the transcript, she tells the jury they can clearly hear it.

Whatever reason for doing it, can this be properly described as ill-treatment enough to make it a criminal offence?

Defence say making masturbation gesture is not ill-treatment because Darren Lawton did it to communicate back to Patient 6.

Patient 6 is a visual communicator.

Even if we’re not right about that, we have material telling us Patient 6 liked to join in with staff, he expressly disliked being left out, he had a good sense of humour, it’s there in the paperwork.

Ms Brown told the jury that Olivia Davies agreed that Patient 6 had a good sense of humour, that Darren Lawton had told they he had spent six hour shifts with Patient 6 laughing for the whole time.

I suggest Darren Lawton did something that would be part of his and Patient 6’s normal communication, wouldn’t cause any distress or discomfort to Patient 6, because it didn’t, did it?

Ms Brown told the jury that the court had heard a lot about how violent Patient 6 could be, that he was the only resident with 4-1, that he needs his own flat with CCTV. She told them she was not going to recount that, she’s not criticising Patient 6 because he is not well “his behaviour is not his fault”. Ms Brown told the jury behind Tab 11 was a psychological formulation from Dr Roberts that contained trigger factors and how they could lead to a presentation of various act of self-harm, violence towards others and property destruction.

There was no issue that day we see in the footage, there’s no violence resulting from what the prosecution say is mocking and winding up Patient 6.

There was no harm, no damage, no agitation.

The prosecution don’t have to prove was resulting harm, but the fact there wasn’t any shows Mr Lawton was not mocking Patient 6.

Because if he had been, we’d have seen one of these presentations.

Ms Brown told the jury that not only did we not see any presentation of agitation from Patient 6, and that we also see Patient 6 continue to work with Darren Lawton. She said that Darren Lawton had a conversation with him, “Darren Lawton tried to get Patient 6 to join in the banter about someone’s boots” and they continue to work together.

If, as the prosecution are suggesting, why on earth would Darren Lawton want to ill-treat, to wind up Patient 6?

Patient 6 is a large man.

His illnesses result in a known capacity for violence.

At this time Patient 6 is out of his flat.

It’s common sense to anyone ladies and gentlemen of the jury, to know it’s not common sense to wind up a man like Patient 6, in these circumstances, could result in real consequences, including injury for everyone involved.

Ms Brown asked the jury doesn’t Darren Lawton get more out of Patient 6 being calm?

A baseline Patient 6 means they get to have a cuppa, a laugh, sit on the sofa, a much nicer way to pass a shift.

Further more if Darren Lawton did have a predilection for winding up Patient 6, you’d think we’d see more evidence ladies and gentlemen of the jury

Ms Brown told the jury that Darren Lawton was with Patient 6 a lot of the time, would think there would be better evidence of him winding him up.

But there isn’t because it doesn’t exist, because it wasn’t happening.

Ms Brown told the jury when they heard from Darren Lawton “that person behind the footage”, there was evidence of genuine care and affection for Patient 6.

He obviously knows Patient 6 very well. They have a laugh together, they talk about everything and anything.

They have in-jokes about puppy eyes, they were having a beard growing competition.

He told you he’d never had to restrain Patient 6.

Ms Brown told the jury about the suggestion Darren Lawton had made to management about having females work with Patient 6. She told them that Patient 6 had improved in his time at Whorlton Hall, that his weight was down and he was spending time outside his flat. She told the jury that Darren Lawton had a recollection of what Patient 6 was doing because he knows him so well “they had that closeness and that bond”. She asked the jury why Darren Lawton would want to ruin that by winding Patient 6 up.

Ms Brown tells the jury in the 30 minutes of footage they have of Darren Lawton and Patient 6 together, they can see how closely they’re sat together on the sofa, and that they could see how Darren Lawton responds to Patient 6’s behaviour before it escalates. She told the jury they could see Darren Lawton studying Patient 6’s face “not to wind him up, but because he’s doing his job, balancing between keeping Patient 6 calm but also giving him the interaction that Patient 6 needs and deserves”.

Ms Brown asked the jury to find Count 26, that behaviour can not properly be defined as ill-treatment, that Mr Lawton didn’t appreciate it was, and he wasn’t reckless as to whether it was. She then told the jury that wasn’t the only footage they had, they also had some footage in Tab 8 “clips of conversations Mr Lawton was having with others”.

Ms Brown told the jury that the prosecution say that the counts were supported by background clips. She said at first glance it looks like there were a fair few clips for Darren Lawton, but there were actually just two separate conversations, one of which had been split into multiple clips to assist the court.

So we have just two conversations I would say on his behalf. Some of what Darren Lawton said and how he said it, is not nice, is it.

The defence invite you to find what we have here are two conversations where Darren Lawton is boasting, exaggerating, in front of a pretty girl.

Being the joker he’s always been in a stressful, hard job where he has no one else to talk to about it other than his colleagues

Ms Brown asked the jury if they’d like someone at their place of work filming covertly, asking them if one of their colleagues would say something they wouldn’t want out in public, or if they themselves would say things they didn’t want repeated in public. She asked whether it meant anything or whether it’s all hot air.

Ms Brown told the jury there was very little correlation between Darren Lawton in those clips, and what they see him doing. She told them that the restraint discussed after the 1-2-3-MAYBO incident, what was being described was a restraint in difficult circumstances, if it happened would be when there were only two staff members and they needed to keep themselves safe until other staff members arrived.

Ms Brown reminded the jury of a phrase from the staff training meeting with Stephen Robdrup that had been played to the court where staff were told restraints aren’t like what they see on the MAYBO course, that their patients hadn’t done the MAYBO course, and that staff should do what they need to do to keep safe and write it up as MAYBO applied.

Ms Brown said a sinister spin could be put on that footage, but she said Darren Lawton was discussing a violent patient when he didn’t have enough colleagues around to help. She told the jury that he was doing what management had told them to do, “do what you need to do to keep yourselves safe”.

Ms Brown then turned to the AJS/37 clips. She told the jury that the first clip happened when Patient 5 was asleep in the room next door, when Darren Lawton can be heard saying he dragged Patient 1 off a bed. Ms Brown told the jury that Darren Lawton had said to them that yes, he did take Patient 1 off a bed, but not in that way. Ms Brown told them that she does have to be taken to the floor, and that would be done in a safe way.

Ms Brown tells the jury that Darren Lawton had to take Patient 1’s phone off her. She says he talks about the man button.

He tells you he never used it himself, the footage does support that, he says “apparently if you press the man button the room fills up with males and she fucking hates it”.

Apparently. Is no evidence he’s done this.

He talks about repeating to Patient 1, but again no evidence he’s done that.

Ms Brown references to the jury Patient 4 and Darren Lawton saying he’d picked him up and bundled him into a lift. She tells them “all those things are allowed to happen if they’re proper restraint and necessary … to take someone to the floor, using a hook and cradle to move them, using the lift” she says to the jury that all those things are allowed to happen “just didn’t happen in the way recalled”.

Ms Brown says clip 4 is where Darren Lawton was said to have Patient 7 against a wall, but Patient 7 actually had Mr Lawton on their list of preferred people. She discusses Darren Lawton saying he’d squared up to Patient 4 and that Christmas was cancelled for Patient 6.

Christmas cancelled for Patient 6. Again, same theme. It did happen, but not as described.

Ms Brown told the jury that one of Patient 6’s triggers had been events such as Christmas, that a plan was in place and when Patient 6 didn’t want anything to do with Christmas on the day, Darren Lawton reported it to a nurse, and acted on their advice to go in with mince pies and see if they could bring him around. Ms Brown told the jury that the nurse on shift that day could have been spoken to to see if Darren Lawton was telling the truth, the CCTV in the flat could have been reviewed, but it was not.

I suggested to the officer in the case that was because there was no reasonable suspicion an offence had been committed, and I suggest that to you now ladies and gentlemen of the jury.

Ms Brown suggested to the jury that Darren Lawton was “exaggerating, speaking in an inappropriate and not nice way, but not about things that actually happened in that way”. She told the jury in Clip 6 Darren Lawton doesn’t say anything, but Olivia Davies says “what do they call him, Uncle Fester?” and she says that she wishes to raise a general point about Olivia Davies.

Mr Lawton said he didn’t feel any different speaking in front of her.

I suggest Olivia Davies created an atmosphere where people were encouraged to speak to her in this way.

Ms Brown told the jury when Ms Davies was cross examined she was asked about guidelines, and the jury have an extract in their bundle. She said they included “non verbal ambivalent or contradictory preferred response, if required, repeat words querying them”.

I suggest not what we actually see in the footage. What we see in the footage was she encouraged, she conveyed approval, she laughed, she smiled, she sparked conversations of her own volition, which backs up what we’re viewing here is chat, unprofessional, inappropriate, but chat between colleagues letting off steam, no reflection of how Mr Lawton felt about his patients or how he was doing his job.

Ms Brown asked the jury if it was a true reflection of Darren Lawton wouldn’t there be more footage, of him slamming patients to the floor, offering to fight them, winding patients up, yet she said, there were only two counts on the indictment and Darren Lawton saw Olivia Davies every day.

Mr Lawton was dealing frequently with restraints because he was working on response … he had every opportunity to act this way and Olivia Davies had every opportunity to film this behaviour by Darren Lawton. I ask you to find the background footage doesn’t find a tendency to behave in this way.

Ms Brown told the jury that the footage behind Divider 8 doesn’t match the footage of the way they’d seen Darren Lawton care for patients. She told the jury that Darren Lawton was never spoken to about his behaviour, he wasn’t dismissed from Whorlton Hall, he wasn’t referred to the CQC, no one blew a whistle about the way he spoke to patients.

Ms Brown told the jury that they’d heard Darren Lawton was in the Army for 17 years and when he came out he did some other jobs before going into care, because “he wanted to give back”, she said using his words. Ms Brown said the fact Mr Lawton wanted this to be a career was supported by his application to do an NVQ. She said with respect to Darren Lawton he wasn’t the most experienced carer, he had no background in care and when Olivia Davies started he’d only been at Whorlton Hall for 8 months.

Ms Brown told the jury that Mr Lawton’s training was minimal, the seven day course they’ve heard about. She told them that Darren Lawton was supposed to have five days on job shadowing “but that didn’t happen”. She told the jury Darren Lawton had limited opportunity to look at careplans, he was thrown in to work with Patient 6 and encouraged “to think outside the box” which was supported by the footage of the training session and a Danshell document advocating personalised approaches and giving general guidance of what secondary techniques could be, including humour.

Ms Brown told the jury that Darren Lawton was doing the best he could, with his limited training, using his own common sense to do the best with these patients.

I say he was calm, straight forward, a limited ego, was reluctant at first to accept he contributed to Patient 6’s improvement. Was willing to admit he is a joker and this is coping technique linked to his own mental health. Hopefully you find he was open and honest with you, telling you about his PTSD diagnosis from his time in the Army.

Now you know a little bit more about him, now you’ve heard from the person behind the footage, does it now help you to see Tab 8 footage is boasting, exaggerating, meaningless chat with colleagues?

I said at the beginning you don’t have to like him, you don’t. Patient 6 liked him, can see from footage. Patient 6 wasn’t the only one, Darren Lawton was on Patient 7’s list of preferred people. Darren Lawton said he was the person Patient 5 chose to go with him, when he went to view his new placement.

Does that marry up with Darren Lawton being a person who ill-treats patients?

Ms Brown said that the prosecution said that the inconsistencies in Darren Lawton’s evidence may assist you with his credibility as a witness. She told the jury that in his defence statement, made last year, Darren Lawton has said Ryan Fuller was winding Patient 6 up. Ms Brown asked the jury to bear in mind these things happened four years ago and he said they were completely uneventful at the time, and asked them if he was inconsistent because he was lying to them, or for more innocent reasons.

I suggest he’s been consistent throughout about the main point, he did not ill-treat patients.

Ms Brown told the jury that Darren Lawton had attended the police station of his own volition, when he knew they wanted to speak to him. He was interviewed and gave the police his phone on which no relevant evidence was found. She told the jury he re-attended a second time where he denied that he had ill-treat patients, and she suggested to the jury he said the same to the police as he said to them, this was not ill-treatment. Ms Brown suggested the inconsistency was because he was doing his best to assist the jury “he’s not here to repeat a rehearsed and practised story, just to tell you the truth”.

Ms Brown told the jury she’d said she liked her job because it was about people.

When we hear about the people behind evidence, it can completely change how something looks or cast doubt on how it looks.

You’ll be given a USB of footage … ask that you do view footage in your retiring room, bearing in mind what you now know about the people involved, the patients and the staff.

Ms Brown told the jury that Patient 5 earlier that day had attempted to choke a staff member, that he loves football and takes a keen interest in the scores. Patient 6 whose illness means he can be violent, but has a great sense of humour.

Darren Lawton, of good character, served his country for 17 years then wanted a change of career so he could give back, wanted to make working in care his career.

You’re not being asked to teach anyone a lesson.

Or pass a moral judgement.

Only being asked to consider the law and whether Darren Lawton has broken the law.

All elements … bearing in mind must be sure before you can convict … I ask you to find Darren Lawton not guilty on both counts. Thank you.

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